In just two days, Iran has reported 18 cases of coronavirus and four deaths.
A member of a medical team takes the temperature of Iraqi travelers returning from Iran at the Najaf International Airport, Feb. 21, 2020, after Iran announced cases of coronavirus infections in the Islamic republic. (HAIDAR HAMDANI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
WORLD HEALTH Organization officials are seeking more information on the four deaths and 18 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Iran.
“This is very concerning,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said at a press conference Friday. He called the situation “serious.”
“We’re getting information, but we have to engage them even more,” Tedros said.
The cases are linked with the Iranian city of Qom, where health officials believe workers from China could have traveled with the virus.
Iran officials said the virus has spread to several other cities within the country, including Tehran, Babol, Arak, Isfahan, and Rasht. It might exist in every city across the county, one health official said.
The neighboring country of Iraq has not reported any cases of the coronavirus yet, but Lebanon confirmed a 45-year-old woman who recently returned from the city of Qom has the virus.
The coronavirus has killed at least 2,200 people and infected over 76,000 more.
The window of opportunity to control the virus is narrowing, Tedros said. Countries need to be doing all they can to prevent its spread, “or it could be messy.”
“We’re still in a phase where containment is possible, with a narrowing window of opportunity,” he said.
The number of cases outside of China, which stands at more than 1,000, is still relatively small, according to Tedros. However, he said he is concerned that there is no clear epidemiological link – like travel history to China or contact with a confirmed case – for several of the reported infections.
Health officials are still trying to understand the transmissibility of the virus, while confined areas like cruise ships and prisons have seen clusters of cases.
China on Friday reported more than 500 cases across prisons for the first time.
Cecelia Smith-Schoenwalder writes about space, science and the environment for U.S. News & World Report. She joined the company in 2019 after previously reporting on natural resources, chemicals, and Congress for E&E News in Washington. D.C. Over her nearly three years at the publication, her reporting took her to the marshes of the Chesapeake Bay and the Florida Everglades. The National Press Foundation selected her for in-depth training on oceans and fisheries in Florida in 2018. She graduated from Washington and Lee University in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She minored in environmental studies and wrote her capstone on Apalachicola Bay’s disappearing oyster populations. Follow her on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.